It is so hard to believe that it’s been one year since we had the immense privilege of holding our baby girl’s first-ever birthday celebration. (Birthday celebrations were not a part of their lives in the DRC.) Where does time go? Today, and this weekend, we got to celebrate her life for the second time, in an extra-special way. Every day is a celebration of life, right?! But little B-Lamb, also known as the family “puppy”, turned 4 today and what a precious gift she is to us.
I was thinking back recently to the very first time I saw she and Joy-Bubble and got to hold them in my arms.
It had been a long 7-month fight to get to Africa to bring our new little girls home. Adam went first and then I had flown by myself into one of the most broken countries in the world, arriving at night…a white woman, walking through a very African airport surrounded by military, UN officers, police – everywhere…with machine guns. I will always remember that moment I stepped off the plane outside, at night. I will remember it because I should have been scared out of my mind, but I was so excited and unnaturally calm. And those African faces were beautiful and intriguing. It was one of those times that I felt in a very tangible way the presence of my Heavenly Father. God’s love took us there, a big jump out of our comfort zone, in temporary ways and permanent, and His grace surrounded us each step. It was an amazing experience all the way around. And looking back, it was our gracious Heavenly Father that got us through every step of the way. I have asked, “How did I do that?” It was not something that I could have ever done without His guiding hand, protection and grace!
The next day, the moment came for us to travel through a city of 10 million to arrive at the orphanage to pick our girls up, girls I had never met or laid eyes on, other than in photos. And these were my girls! I could not wait to get there and meet them and begin showering them with love. To let them know that they were loved and cherished by a mama and papa and brothers and sister who were waiting for them. Forever family who had invested much into getting to them. It must be a glimpse into how Jesus feels now…waiting for the moment the Father tells Him to go get His children at the end of the ages. He is coming for us!
Here in the new state where we live, where trans ethnic adoption seems a bit rare compared to where we are coming from, I have gotten some of the most interesting (let’s just be nice and call it that) comments and looks and stares. ”Oh bless you for doing that.” or “Aren’t you so nice.” Kind of like we just took in puppies and what a big heart we must have. As if orphans aren’t human, made in the image of God, and our responsibility as the children of God. What is at the core of God’s heart is where I want my heart to be beating! Adoption is definitely countercultural – everywhere. But it is at the heart of God our Father. It is His culture and praise His name that it is so, or where would I be? How could I, as a sinful woman (a very unloving sinful woman, I might add) lay eyes for the first time on two little girls that I did not bear from my own body, a bit older than usually acceptable, total strangers, a bit dirty and smelly, in a third-world country, and $40,000 poorer - for the very first time, and feel amazing love, compassion and a fighting mother-bear instinct. It was God! Can I shout it from the mountaintop?!! It was GOD! He chose me and sent His Son to rescue me and adopt me – plucking me from the pit. And as we live in the “already, but not yet” we long for His final and grand return.
I remember walking into the orphanage, seeing a sea of beautiful brown faces, and searching for our girls. They came to us immediately and it was in that moment that I fell in love with them. Little B-Lamb clung to me and smiled. She was dirty and her clothes were mismatched but her smile and beautiful face grabbed my heart. A smile that afterwards we heard never happened. She was known to cry all the time at the orphanage. And she and I just had that instant bond. Adam and I just kept telling the girls over and over again that we loved them (in Lingala)…a bit countercultural to the sweet Africans watching. We were definitely the sappy Westerners! And I love that girl today just as fiercely and even more dearly. She was following me around the house the other day (as she often does…she is a worker and helper!) and I heard her talking under breath saying, “Mom’s the best. Mom’s the best. Mom’s the best.” Oh my goodness!! Melt my heart. I am still blown away when I hear her say, “Mama.” What a beautiful privilege and a huge responsibility. And anyone who has been a mother for a while knows, this is just the beginning. The fight to bring them here will have been nothing in comparison to the prayers, tears, gray hairs, longings and intercessions made for her as long as I have breath.
So it has been almost a year and a half now since we became a forever family. And again, it’s my Father who gets all the credit for how well everyone has meshed together and grown as an expanded family. Seven sinners (actually 9 since we’re living with in-laws – ha!) living under the same roof – living life together everyday…very closely. And my Father is kind every.single.day! Last night, our Joy-Bubble couldn’t contain her excitement for B-Lamb’s birthday today. And all the others woke up with extreme excitement – kind of like it was Christmas morning or something. Nope, just B-Lamb’s birthday. They all love this little lady, a little one grafted into our family and forever enriching and changing our life stories. Grace…all is grace.
Here are some recent photos to show her 4th birthday:
She got to take her turn going out on a date with her daddy.
We enjoyed the one nice day lately and went to the zoo (an old birthday tradition from when the three originals were younger). It was a blast! Here we photographed the boy we are missing in the family. Ha!
She chose strawberry pancakes for her breakfast (we ended up with crepe cake). We love food and birthdays in our family!
My gluten free version of a Pinterest find here. Adam said it was the best sweet breakfast food he had ever put in his mouth.
For lunch, she requested yogurt (and vitamins – ha!) So we turned it into a yogurt bar, with lots of fruit and some granola crunch.
She requested a strawberry birthday cake. So here is my gluten free version of this Pinterest find. It was absolutely delicious!
Each of our original three children has a song that we gave them years ago. One is The Lily of the Valley. Another is How Firm a Foundation. And the third is A Mighty Fortress is Our God. This song will be their song for life. One that, by God’s grace, will flow through their minds at random times, reminding them of the love and care of their Father. We pray it’s an anchor for their souls. An anchor to a family that is bigger than us – one that has Abraham and Moses and David in their heritage. A reminder that their story is a small part of the larger redemptive story He is writing that will be consummated at His return.
So today we chose All I Have Is Christ for little B-Lamb. Here are the words below. Read and be encouraged in what Christ has done for you and will do in and through you.
I once was lost in darkest night
Yet thought I knew the way
The sin that promised joy and life
Had led me to the grave
I had no hope that You would own
A rebel to Your will
And if You had not loved me first
I would refuse You still
But as I ran my hell-bound race
Indifferent to the cost
You looked upon my helpless state
And led me to the cross
And I beheld God’s love displayed
You suffered in my place
You bore the wrath reserved for me
Now all I know is grace
Hallelujah! All I have is Christ
Hallelujah! Jesus is my life
Now, Lord, I would be Yours alone
And live so all might see
The strength to follow Your commands
Could never come from me
Oh Father, use my ransomed life
In any way You choose
And let my song forever be
My only boast is You
© 2008 Sovereign Grace Praise (BMI)